Napa Valley is world-renown for being the best darn wine region this side of Europe. It’s also noted for its olive oil production, and no shortage of spring wildflowers. But did you know that many of Northern California’s best attractions are just a short drive from Napa Valley? After you’ve finished your Napa Valley wine tour, here are some other things to see and do while you’re in the area.
1. See the Giant Sequoias & Coast Redwoods
Northern California is known for being home to — not just one — but two of the world’s largest and oldest species of trees. Coast redwoods are the tallest trees on earth, while the giant sequoia is the biggest in terms of diameter. Both, however, are stunningly tall (around 400 feet at their tallest) and amazingly big around (as much as 140-feet in diameter). They’re also among the oldest living organisms on earth — some likely surpassing their 2,000th birthdays.
The nearest ancient redwoods to Napa Valley are at Armstrong Grove State Nature Reserve in Guerneville. That’s about an hour and a half’s drive, but it’s one of the most beautiful drives in a state known for gorgeous scenery. Though not the old, ancients, you can see giant sequoia groves right in Napa Valley. Many of the vineyards and wineries have sequoia groves right on their properties.
2. Delve Into Pacific Sea Life at Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Seymour Marine Discovery Center is a hands-on, interactive aquarium at the University of Santa Cruz. You can actually touch real sharks, sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemones, crabs, and more. It’s located in an actual working laboratory, where researchers are trying to find ways to conserve and protect the oceans.
The discovery center also features an 87-foot whale skeleton, named Ms. Blue. You can also see most of the marine species that call nearby Monterey Bay home, including seals, otters, dolphins, sea lions, whales, and a variety of sea birds. The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is about two and a half hours from the hotels and wineries in Napa Valley.
3. Get a History Lesson (and a Case of the Creeps) at Alcatraz
A Napa Valley wine tour is relaxing and luxurious. If you need a break from all that pampering and easy-living, take a quick 1 1/2 hour trip to Alcatraz. Operational from 1934 to 1963, this island-based prison was designed to detain the country’s most notorious and dangerous criminals. Nicknamed “The Rock,” Alcatraz housed some of the most legendary criminals in American history, including Al Capone, and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman”.
What you may not be aware of is that Alcatraz also served as a military prison during the 1800’s and was occupied by American Indians from ’69 to ’71. Night tours are available to up the creep factor even more. But there’s also a lighter side of Alcatraz — a lighthouse, to be exact, as well as a historic garden, and some of the best sunset views on the West Coast (which is truly saying something). Most Alcatraz tours depart from Pier 39, meaning you can take in two of the best San Francisco tourist destinations at once.
4. Salute the History of the U.S. Military at Presidio of San Francisco
Both military buffs and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy a visit to Presidio. Featuring a 1,500-acre park, the Walt Disney Family Museum, various restaurants, views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, a beach, and a Civil War fort — there is literally something for everyone. There’s also a tribute to Star Wars, the Yoda Fountain, at Lucasfilm.
The park features wooded areas, ideal for hiking, a golf course, and numerous scenic lookout points. You can visit the Battery Chamberlin museum, an authentic artillery battery dating back to 1904 that played a role in coastal defense, and Fort Point, built in 1861. In total, there are 800 buildings of historical significance at Presidio.
5. Take it Easy While Floating Down the Russian River
After your Napa Valley wine tour, you may want to spend some quiet time reflecting on … absolutely nothing. We dig. That means it’s time to take the short (less than 2 hours) drive to one of the beach areas along the Russian River. Drop in an inner tube, kayak, or canoe, and float to a predetermined stopping point further downriver. There are several places to rent a canoe or kayak, or just bring a $20 inner tube and air pump and inflate it when you get there.
Don’t forget to leave a vehicle at your stopping point (or have someone reliable meet you there). Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the beaches along the route, as well as some water, because there aren’t any convenience stores or restaurants out there. These are unguided tours, so you’re on your own. Use caution, as you always do when enjoying the great outdoors.
But before you head off on these grand NorCal adventures, start with your Napa Valley limo service! Visit Allure Limo Wine Tours to start planning your dream vacation today.